In 1841, P.T. Barnum opened is museum of oddities in lower Manhattan, paving the way for what would be known as freak shows and the circus. Barnum would become world famous for his circus and would become known as The Greatest Showman. However, did you know that Kenton had its own great showman?
In 1866, G.G. Grady started his own circus and was on the road until 1873. Before starting his circus, Grady operated a “Peep” show. Now this is not what you think. A peep show was glasses you looked through that showed enlarged pictures. Sometimes these pictures were of places in far off lands, or famous events. Other times, these pictures were of a more risqué nature. Moving on from his peep shows, Grady soon developed a vaudeville act with singing and dancing. His vaudeville act would develop into a one-ring circus, without the usual menagerie.
Always wanting to improve his show, Grady would lease animals from L.B. Lent out of Detroit to start his own menagerie and soon had trained lions, elephants, and other exotic animals. One of the main attractions of the circus was entering the lion’s den with lion tamer, Herr Polshof, who was said to be one of the best in his time.
Other attractions of Grady’s circus included a hot air balloon to which a trapeze was attached allowing the balloonist to perform high in the air. His circus also included the Van Zandt brothers, who were acrobats and the Miller brothers who were the first to perform a balancing head-to-head act. The Miller brothers would later travel with the New Orleans Minstrel and Gorton’s Gold Band, which started in 1879 in Kenton. Grady left Kenton in the early 1870’s, moving to Indianapolis where he would run a theatre, and that is where he died.
A little side note: The museum has an intern through Kenton High School’s Wildcat Committee Connectors. Part of his role here is to create an exhibit for the museum. He will be working on developing a display telling the story of scouts, both boy and girl scouts, in Hardin County. He is asking for anyone who is willing to loan items for the exhibit to the museum to contact us. If you have items or information, you would like to share or loan, please contact Sheena or Joey at the museum by either calling 419-673-7147 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Thank you for your help.
Sheena Striker, Director
Hardin County Historical Museums, Inc.
223 N Main Street, Kenton, OH 43326